Episode 17: Arsenic, Incorporated

Twisters I present to you – Arsenic Incorporated, the story of the South Philly Poison Ring.  We are going back in time, something you know I love to do.  I’d say we’re going back to a simpler time but dodging a poison ring doesn’t sound all that simple.  In the 1930s Philadelphia, like the rest of the country, was suffering from the great depression.  While the rest of the country was at a 15% unemployment rate, Philly was doing much worse at 25% unemployment.  There were about 2million residents in the city of Philadelphia then so we’re talking about a half million people out of a job.  That’s a lot of stressed out, desperate people in one city.

In desperate times some people see an opportunity.  The dregs of humanity are attracted people’s desperation.  The scum of the earth looks at people’s misfortune as an open door to take advantage of their fellow man, and woman, and Philly was rife with opportunity to scam, bamboozle, swindle and steal. 

Enter the Petrillo cousins, stage left…. Dun dun dun…  What began as two men trying to make a buck, running insurance scams and counterfeiting money, quickly became the largest poison ring in history.  The Petrillo cousins business was murder, and business was good.  With help from Dr. Morris Bolber – a faith healer, and Carina Favato – sometimes referred to as a marriage consultant, other times referred to as a witch, 16 people were eventually arrested for the murders of over 50 immigrant Philadelphians between 1932 and 1938.  This is by far one of the most sordid stories of TwistedPhilly’s history. 

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Episode 16: TwistedPhilly Holiday Happenings

Pull yourselves out of your tryptophan coma and listen up, twisters!  Today, November 24, isn’t just Thanksgiving.  It’s the 3-month anniversary of TwistedPhilly!  This is a special anniversary episode for me, an opportunity to say thank you to each and every one of you for joining me on this twisted journey.  And since the winter holidays are upon us, I’d like to share with all of you some of my favorite Philly holiday activities. 

So cut yourself another slice of pie, pour another cup of coffee and curl up next to the fire as we talk about some of the best places to see spectacular light shows, Christmas trees, shopping and shows.  And remember, you don’t have to celebrate Christmas to decorate a tree.

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Episode 15: PART 2 – Ms. Rambo

To recap part one, Sylvia Seegrist was a resident of Springfield, Pennsylvania, a suburb about 10 miles outside the city of Philadelphia.  On Wednesday, October 30, 1985, Sylvia brought an automatic rifle to the Springfield mall and in a span of less than 15 minutes killed 3 people, and seriously wounded 7 others. 

Sylvia had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia in 1975 when she was just 15 years old. And over the next ten years Sylvia was institutionalized a dozen times.  In the years leading up to the massacre at the Springfield Mall, Sylvia’s behavior continued to decline.  She was frequently escorted out of local businesses for intimidating and scaring patrons.  She ranted and raved about the government, the system and often made threats against society.  There were more instances than I can count when Sylvia expressed her desires to hurt other people. 

In part 2 we review Sylvia’s trial and incarceration, and take a deeper look at the mental health system with help from TwistedPhilly listener Jen.  Too often cases like these are sensationalized to focus only on the violent crimes, when we also need to consider the needs for mental health support in preventing stories like Sylvia’s.  Help keep this show going. Subscribe on iTunes, leave a review and let me know what you’d like to hear!

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Episode 14: PART 1 – Ms. Rambo


Since starting the podcast I’ve been sucked into so many memories of childhood, and my teens and 20s.  As I research true crime cases I’m taken back to places where I grew up, places where I hung out on weekends with friends.  In a way that’s making me feel older, because these places have changed so much over the past 20 or 30 years, and at the same time it reconnects me to my past, and makes me think about being a teenager again.

And if there are any spots that remind me of being a teenager it’s the Granite Run Mall and the Springfield mall.  Both malls opened in 1974, when I was about 5 years old.  I don’t remember a time when they weren’t there.  Springfield is about 10 miles outside of Philly, and the mall opened so long ago the original anchor stores were Bamburgers and John Wannamakers. 

Why am I talking about malls?  Because I’m going to tell you the tale of a spree killing that took place at the Springfield Mall in 1985, when I Was 16 and hanging out at these malls damn near every weekend.  This is the story of Sylvia Seegrist, who locals called Ms. Rambo, a disturbed young woman who was often seen marching in them all ranting and yelling, not making any sense, someone that we thought was the local crazy girl and it turned out she was much more disturbed than any of us realized. On Wednesday, October 30, 1985, while parents were putting finishing touches on Halloween costumes, and making last minute grocery store runs for candy, Sylvia Seegrist was preparing to unleash her demons in a local mall.  Before the day was out, three people were dead, and seven more seriously inured. 

In Part 1 we learn who is Sylvia Seegrist, and what pushed her to become a spree killer. 

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Episode 13: Here Chickie, Chickie, Chickie

Many of the episodes I’ve told so far are big stories – big Philly locations, big Philly true crime stories, or at least stories that I think are big. I’m always researching episode topics, and thinking about the types of stories I want to share with you. 

I love a good legend.  I’m one of those people who believe the legends hold some element of truth to –  obviously I don’t believe in unicorns today, but is it possible that hundreds or even thousands of years ago there was some weird horse like creature with a horn on it’s head?  Sure I think that’s possible.

Recently I’d been researching some Philly and Pennsylvania legends, trying to pick something that might be a little less well known when I stumbled upon a legend I knew – but It wasn’t familiar to me because of where the legend originates, it was familiar to me because I heard this story when I Was about 6 years old.  And I heard happened somewhere else.

This is the story of a crazy, creepy, bizarre park with stories older than many you’ve heard so far, stories of ghosts and princesses, of lost love and hairy little men.  All that weirdness in one spot?  You bet, after all this is Twisted Philly.

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Episode 12: Haunted Halloween Happenings

Helloooooo Twisters, and welcome to a special edition of Twisted Philly  – Haunted Halloween Happenings.

Tonight, or today depending on when you’re listening, we’re going to talk about some of the coolest, creepiest and most things to do in Philly this Halloween season.  Ok, not everything will be terrifying.  I’ve got some great spots that are family friendly for all the little twisters in your life (but still don’t let them listen to this podcast without parental supervision!)

Some of these activities are events I love, or events I’m interested in checking out this year, some will be spooky, scary and twisted, we’ve got some haunted history, and some activities are just plain fun.

Whatever your pleasure this Halloween, you’re sure to find something you’ll love in Twisted Philly.

Episode 11: PART 2 – It’s Just Not Fairley

In Part 2 we go deeper into the investigation of Lisa and Devon Manderach’s murders, and the investigation of Caleb Fairley.

Caleb made a deal with prosecutors – it’s a deal that would lead investigators to Lisa, but is it a deal that would come back to haunt the community?  And how does the community deal with the loss of two beautiful young lives?

We get into the twisted turns of Caleb’s trials and unexpected stories of family members on both sides of this case over the years since Caleb was found guilty almost 20 years ago.

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Episode 10: PART 1 – It’s Just Not Fairley

On September 10, 1995, Lisa Manderach and her 19 month old daughter Devon, left their Limerick, PA, home around 3:30 to check out a new children’s clothing store in a nearby shopping center and never returned.

This is their story, and the story of Caleb Fairley; a young man who was referred to by people who knew him from high school as strange, quiet, odd, someone who could give other’s the creeps.

What made Lisa and Devon cross paths with Caleb?  How could their lives take such a dramatic, disturbing and devastating turn in a matter of hours?  Why didn’t anyone realize what this young man with fantasies of vampires and beautiful women was capable of if left to his own devices?

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Episode 9: Get a Grip

Subtitle:  The only reason that raven is standing there is because it’s been nailed there.

It’s 1838.  A struggling writer moves to Philadelphia in the hopes of skyrocketing his career.  It’s hard out here for a writer, especially one who is brilliant and unusual, with personal demons.  Can you guess who this writer is?  It’s Edgar Allen Poe.

Poe lived in Philadelphia for almost 7 years in the late 1830s to early 1840s.  These were some of his most successful and prolific years as a writer, although they weren’t the most lucrative.  And while he was in Philly he was inspired by a raven named Grip.  Yes twisters, there is a very famous raven who makes his home in Twisted Philly although when he was alive and croaking he called Charles Dickens house his home.

In this episode we dig into the connections between Dickens and Poe, Poe’s life in Philadelphia, and the only one of his five residences that is not only still standing, but is a historical landmark that you can tour.  Oh, and we talk about grip too.

Nevermore, nevermore, nevermind… just listen!

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Episode 8: There Goes the Neighborhood

Neighbors can be a terrific asset.  They can be sources of support and friendship.  Or they can be quiet and keep to themselves, which is also perfectly fine.  But sometimes you can wind up living next to the neighbor from hell.

That’s what happened to Anne Hoover when Roy Kirk bought the abandoned home adjacent to hers in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 1992.

What started out as an amicable relationship, with Roy joining a local homeowner’s club focused on beautifying the community, first turned into annoyance, then frustration then fear.  But no one expected a disagreement between neighbors could turn deadly.

houses        anne